My stay in Tomohon has come to and end, but I have had the chance to explore the cool leafy prettiness of the Minihasan Highlands for a couple of days during my visit. Even though I’d booked the guesthouse for four nights I realised that two was enough and checked out this morning to head for the livelier bustle of Manado.
Tomohon turned out to be a pretty nice place in the end though. The local people were gems and I was treated like a minor celebrity everywhere I walked, with people asking my name and wanting their photo taken with me. Yesterday I was taken through a full photo shoot with a group of giggling people on a business trip from Jakarta. I was roughly twice their height. There’s not many Westerners here (in fact I haven’t spotted one yet) so I think I’m a bit of a novelty! However, being the only guest in a remote little guesthouse is a bit isolating and despite the staff’s friendliness I started craving the company of people who don’t feel the need to stare or giggle when they look at me!
Yesterday was really interesting though. I have a great driver / tour guide / all round sweetie called Devi who took me on my own Minihasan tour. We were up at dawn to climb a local volcano (Mt. Lokon). I was glad to be fueled by my banana pancake brekkie, as it was bloody hard and sweaty work clambering up the rocky paths. At some points the volcanic rock was slippery, but despite ending up on my bum twice I made it safely up to the crater, and it was worth the effort. The blue bubbling sulphuric lake in the crater was quite a sight and it was great to have my picture taken standing in the clouds of eggy-smelling smoke.
Afterwards we had coffee by the serene Linow Lake (also bubbling with volcanic gases and a lovely shade of blue). We took lunch at a rustic cafe with a fabulous panaromic view of the rice fields, then headed for the local jungle market for a stomach-churning experience. It was so sad to see cages of depressed looking dogs, mournfully awaiting their fate as someone’s dinner (the Minihasan cuisine is ‘adventurous’). It was all I could do to keep my lunch down as I walked past butchered puppies / bats / pigs (not sure what else as I didn’t want to get too close). The smell, heat and flies drove me away from there pretty quickly!
Last night we headed out to a clifftop restaurant where I was offered the chance to try their best dog / bat meat dishes. I politely declined, but they brought out the dishes and sat them in front of me anyway. I must say I wasn’t tempted!
Today we drove down to Manado and Devi invited me to accompany him to a wedding at the village where he grew up (Pinasung Kulan). It was a lovely drive, a couple of hours down the coastal path from Manado (except the roads were terrible for the last stretch). According to Devi (who is the only one in the village who speaks any English) I am the first Westerner to ever visit the village! It was amazing to hang out with the kids and take their photographs. Everyone was so sweet and kind to me, and it was so funny to sit there with a circle of them around me staring at me in fascination! One man climbed up a palm tree with his machete, hacked off a coconut, sliced the top off and presented me with it to drink. Another man sang me a song and they all treated me like royalty. Quite an afternoon to remember! Not sure how easy it will be to adjust back to anonymity back in Holland…..!
Tomorrow I visit the Tangkoko National Park to try to spot the miniature monkeys!! Will let you know how it goes.